Special effect

21st century computational power is so great that almost any imaginable effect can be produced digitally. Backgrounds can be added or replaced, lighting issues ‘fixed’, and actors can work alone in front of a green screen while appearing to interact with digital characters – although the result can often be less than ‘real’.

Michel Gondry’s use of traditional in-camera special effects help reinforce realism in his work. The boundaries of using in-camera effects also inspire creativity, in finding a way to create the visual that reflects the vision in his imaginative mind.

In the music video for Bjork’s Hyperballad, the singer is depicted asleep, dreaming, and moving images of herself singing are overlaid, creating a dream-like feeling, further evoked at times by the perspective changing in a rhythmical way.

The technique, Transparency, involves exposing film twice: “one image was recorded directly over another without blocking out the initial imrpession” (Ezra, 2000, p31), resulting in a ghost-like second moving image. If the second scene is lit strongly, the result is very much like an apparition or dream like appearance.

Georges Méliès used this technique to create a ghostlike figure interacting with a primary character in the 1903 film Le Revenant/L’Apparition. A man sitting in a room notices an object start to move around, and eventually a ghostly figure appears. The effect is very much apparent when the two figures ‘cross paths’ in the same space, as shown in the image below.


Above: A scene from Georges Méliès film Le Revenant. (Georges Méliès 1903 Le revenant [image] 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2016 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKVx–KEWFc)

Gondry’s uses a softly lit sleeping Bjork in rich colour, effecting a three-dimensional impression through constant change of perspective, overlaid with a flat harshly lit image of the singer’s face, starkly white, as well as other objects dropping into frame and smashing. In the image shown here, there are three layers: the original sleeping figure, the singing figure, and objects such as crockery.


Above: A scene from Michel Gondry’s Bjork music video Hyperballad. (Björk – Hyperballad (Official Music Video) [image] 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2016 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnZzE89Qn7w)

The contrast between the rich dimensional image and the stark flat images work very effectively to create a dream-like impression, proving that methods used in the very beginning of film making can still be relevant and effective today.

Ezra, E. (2000). Georges Méliès: The Birth of the Auteur. Manchester : Manchester University Press.
Björk – Hyperballad (Official Music Video) [image] 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2016 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnZzE89Qn7w
Georges Méliès 1903 Le revenant [image] 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2016 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKVx–KEWFc

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